Boys soccer 2016: A wild ride awaits for all
This could be one heck of a year.
Soccer is always exciting in Eagle County — we always have teams in the chase, and great rivalries. But 2016? Whoa, doctor.
Yes, wrong kind of football.
Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley and Vail Mountain went a combined 43-9-1 — and two of those losses were the Huskies and Devils splitting their meetings — last year. That’s three playoff berths, two league titles and appearances in the state quarters and semis.
And, unbelievably, this fall could top that.
OK, Vail Mountain School has been waiting for this fall since, well, the Gore Rangers lost to Kent Denver, 2-0, down at All-City Stadium, in the Final Four. Just about everyone, except for Dylan Cunningham, is coming back.
This is my 20th year at the Vail Daily, and I have never seen expectations so high for Vail Mountain School boys soccer. They should be, but how the Gore Rangers handle it will be a key factor for the season.
Gents, you’ve got a big bullseye on your collective back. Everyone knows you’re good and will bring their best. It’s going to make a team’s season to beat you.
You can play this year as if you are anointed to go to the playoffs and win this thing and you will probably wear orange and make a run. The talent is there to phone it in.
The better approach is one of humility. You play one game at a time and make seasons within in the season, achieving goals within each of these intervals.
“In this three-game stretch, we work on getting the ball outside.”
“In this stretch, we incorporate our defense into moving the ball forward.”
Focus on improvement within yourselves, and the bigger things will take care of themselves.
The model for how Vail Mountain School should approach this season was written by Battle Mountain in 2012. Current Huskies coach David Cope coached Vail Mountain School coach Pete Petrovski when the latter was in school. Maybe the two teams can play sometime?
As with Vail Mountain School, Battle Mountain will be defending its Slope title. The Huskies lost some key pieces from last year’s team, but what else is new?
That’s a compliment. Battle Mountain’s program is at a point where it reloads on the fly. The reason everyone rightly assumes the Huskies will be in the mix when the brackets come out is that the program seamlessly finds a way to fill these graduation vacancies.
Battle Mountain really should have been in the 4A semifinals last year, but for one of those games where everything that could possibly go wrong did. It wouldn’t be overly shocking to see the Huskies make a run.
Soccer can be a very complicated sport, but also simple — focus on the little things, guys, and, yes, beat Steamboat Springs.
Perhaps, this might be the time to mention that Battle Mountain opens at Vail Mountain on the above date. I have worked here so long I remember when this was the big rivalry game — the Huskies couldn’t beat Steamboat and Coal Ridge didn’t exist.
I love the fact that this is back. These two teams are evenly matched. Just don’t take much out of this result, as hyped as it may be. (Silly local media.) All it will be is the first 80 (or 100) minutes of the season. Yes, bragging rights are on the line, but this match will make or break no one’s season.
We have talked about two state contenders, and truth be told, I’m most intrigued by Eagle Valley soccer.
This program has been building nicely throughout the past few years to the point where soccer in Gypsum is not a sport played by strange people wearing shorts, paraphrasing the late Robin Williams. (No emailing me, people. Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain are just opposites when it comes to emphasis. Battle Mountain’s football team is soccer and Eagle Valley is consumed with Friday Night Lights.)
Devils soccer is changing that. The team finished second in the Slope, right in the middle of a Battle Mountain-Steamboat sandwich.
The goal for 2016 is to see the program grow. Can the Devils promote from their JV, just like Battle Mountain does? Can the Devils figure out overtime? Can the Devils win within league on the road against top-flight teams?
These are all steps as a program grows. I wouldn’t bet against the Devils.